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24 January 2009

SBMA signs in 185 new investments, creates 13,321 more jobs in 2008

Investment and employment figures in this free port continued to soar in 2008 despite a slowing global economy, as the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) approved a total of 185 new investment projects last year and increased the Subic workforce by 13,321 more workers.

Yearend reports from the SBMA Business Group indicated that investment projects grew by six percent last year, or from a total of 175 in 2007 to 185 in 2008. This brought a total of 1,147 approved projects in Subic as of the yearend with cumulative committed investments worth $5.75 billion.

The new projects, worth $249 million in committed investments, were mostly in the tourism, manufacturing and services sectors, which "historically employed the most number of workers in Subic," said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

He said the fresh investments are projected to add 6,260 more jobs to Subic's active workforce that, as of December 2008, already stood at a total of 87,502.

Arreza added that while last year's total value of investments significantly dropped from Subic's all-time records of $1.71 billion in 2007 and $1.44 billion in 2006, "Subic continued to attract some big-ticket projects, while remaining one of the biggest employers in the whole Central Luzon region."

Citing data from the SBMA Business Group, Arreza said the top 10 investments in 2008 was headlined by Subic Neocove Corp., a Korean-led consortium that pledged $175 million to build a high-end leisure facility at Subic's Cawag area, a short distance from the Hanjin shipyard.

Following Neocove is Hanil E & C Subic, Inc., with commitments of $11 million for medium to high-rise commercial residential buildings; Sultan Ahmed Lootah Enterprises Corp., with $6.72 million to manufacture corrugated cartons, sheets, rolls, paper cores, corner pads, trays and duplex boards; George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center, Inc., $6.58 million to operate a hospital, medical and nursing school, wellness center, and research center; and Hanafil Golf & tour, Inc., with $3 million as initial investments to operate golf, tour & other related recreational facilities.

The rest in the top 10 list are: boats and marine-related products manufacturer Australasia Marine Alliance Corp., with $2.32 million; Pacific Pearl Airways Aviation School, with $2.3 million for an aviation technical/ vocational school; Taiwan Cogeneration Corp.'s Subic Bay branch office, with $2 million to design and engineer power plant, transmission and substation projects; Palmgold Int'l Ltd., with $1.94 million for the importation of gaming equipment and operation of slot machine arcade; and Grand Pillar International Development, Inc., with $1.9 million for a real estate venture.

Arreza said the top 10 biggest projects alone made up 85.43 percent of the total committed investments approved by the SBMA Board last year. Foreign direct investments (FDIs), meanwhile, composed 90.74 percent of the $249-million total.

Most of the FDIs were pledged by Korean firms, with a total of 61 projects worth $201.8 million. Filipino firms, however, still placed second to Koreans in terms of total investments in 2008, followed by companies from the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Malaysia, Norway, United States of America, Pakistan, and Japan.

Meanwhile, Subic's active workforce, which increased by 18 percent from the 2007 record of 74,181 to 87,502 in 2008, was still dominated by those in the services sector, with a total of 36,203 workers as of the yearend.

Workers in the shipbuilding and marine-related services, however, were catching up in numbers over the last two years, and totaled 30,728 or 35 percent in 2008. A total of 14,545 or 17 percent were recorded in the manufacturing sector; 5,480 or six percent in the construction sector; while 546 or less than one percent were employed as domestic helpers or caretakers.

In terms of manpower distribution, Olongapo City still occupied the number one slot, with 32,620 or 37 percent of Subic's workforce in 2008; Bataan with 11,412 or 13 percent; Zambales with 19,578 or 22 percent; Pampanga, 2,942 or 3 percent; the National Capital Region, 4,289 or five percent; and Tarlac, with 2,220 or three percent.

Arreza also said that Subic's employment generation efforts, a well as its joint program with various agencies to reduce job-skills mismatch, have successfully provided more livelihood opportunities for residents of communities near the free port.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment's Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (DOLE-BLES) showed that the total labor force in the entire Central Luzon region increased by 2.4 percent last year, from 3.4 million in 2007 to 3.5 million as of October 2008.

During the same period, unemployment rate in Central Luzon declined from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 8.1 percent last October.

Labor statistics also indicated that out of the 3.5 million workers in the region in October, only 226,135 or 6.5 percent are underemployed. Underemployment rate in the region decreased by one percent from 254,700 or 7.5 percent in 2007, giving Central Luzon the least underemployment rate among the 17 regions in the country. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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